About the ‘Walking & Music in the Outer Hebrides’ Tour
Within the islands that make up the Outer Hebrides is a combination of sea, mountains and above all space, in a unique Gaelic setting. The contrast, from the unexpectedly hilly Harris and eastern seaboard of South Uist, to the long sweeps of glistening white sand that form the western coast, and the wonderful beaches of Barra, is something to be seen to be believed. Contrasting also, is the vibrant crofting community and a timeless history stretching back before the placing of the amazing Callanish Stones 5000 years ago.
Our journey aims to visit as many islands as possible, but walking is mainly confined to Lewis, Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, Eriskay and Barra. Although combined together as the Outer Hebrides, each island has its own unique take on life, partly from its history and partly from the present day islanders.
There will be a number of musical guests and events, including a visit to the Ceolas ceilidh, and to the award-winning Heb Celt Festival. We'll update details of these as and when they are confirmed.
The islands and seas in between are great for wildlife – eagles soar overhead, and many ground nesting birds scuttle about the machair, seals and otters play in the nearby water with basking sharks, whales, dolphins further out; can't be guaranteed of course, but many sightings are made every season.
11 July - Barra
Early rendezvous Stirling; travel to Oban for the ferry to Castlebay on Barra. 2 nights Barra
Barra - The island of Barra is about 60sq.km, with a population of around 1100 people. The centre of population is Castlebay in the SE, although there are numerous small townships around the coast. The island is the heartland of the Clan McNeil, with Kisimul Castle in the bay opposite Castlebay village, once being the seat of the chief. The islanders are mostly Gaelic speaking but all have English as a second language. They thrive on a mixture of tourism, crofting and fishing. With its splendid beaches, rocky bays, flower covered machair, dunes and rugged hills, Barra is often referred to as the “Outer Hebrides in miniature”. Whether exploring the nooks and crannies of the southern tip of Vatersay, or wandering along a sandy stretch of beach in the north of Barra, this is an idyllic spot. Round every corner there is a perfect spot to fiddle the time away. Vatersay – home of the Vatersay Raiders where the local population claimed their rights for land to croft in the early part of the 20th century.
Morning ferry to Eriskay. Explore Eriskay, the island of ‘Whisky Galore’, and where Bonny Prince Charlie landed before the ’45. If it’s a clear day we may walk up Beinn Scriathan, the highest point on the island, for views of Barra, South Uist and Skye. 2 nights South Uist
14 July - South Uist
The lands of long, long white sand beaches, rocky east coast shores, the flowers of the machair above the shore, and the haunting call of the curlew over the moors. The crofting township of Daliburgh will be our base from which we explore the area. We’ll visit the nearby crofting settlements of the Atlantic coast, enjoy the 5 mile walk through the Druidibeg National Nature Reserve on the north of the island which may offer some good bird watching, and perhaps have time to visit the Kildonan Museum, with its collection of artefacts giving a glimpse into the lives of crofters through the ages.
Explore South Uist, Kildonan museum, old crofting townships and…. oh yes and make some music.
15 July - Benbecula, North Uist
Heading north by Benbecula to North Uist for 2 nights. The bird reserves of the west coast, maybe Rueval or Rossinish and the old crofts are within reach.
Situated between South and North Uist, Benbecula is a lowland of shimmering lochs. A walk to the top of Rueval, the island's highest point will give us a 360-degree of the surrounding beaches, mountains and islands, and possibly views out to St Kilda. The route from here to Rossinish at the coast is said to be the route of Bonnie Prince Charlie's escape with Flora MacDonald to the Isle of Skye at the end of The '45.
This is Berneray Week so we may catch the sheep dog trials. Otherwise, a walk around Berneray and to its highest point, affords equally fine views of this beguiling mélange of water, islands and glimpses ahead to Harris. We may also have time to visit Balranald Bird Reserve on the west coast, a wonderful stop for walking and birding.
16 July - Harris
Now we head over the Sound of Harris to Harris itself. Sometimes referred to as "the high heart of the Hebrides". Harris is a much more rugged island, and the contrasts of sandy beaches, azure seas and wild rocky terrain is all the more apparent and awe-inspiring.
Spending a couple of nights near Tarbert or Leverburgh will allow us time to explore the area, including a visit to a local tweed maker, and perhaps time at the Seallam genealogy centre or over to Scalpay.
Our walks may take us out to Luskentyre Sands, said to be one of the finest beaches in Britain, or out to the Harris Eagle Observatory, where we may be able to spy one of the 20 pairs of Golden Eagles nesting on the island. There may also be time to follow the "Golden Road" as it winds its way to the east coast, passing though a intriguing landscape, of shimmering lochs, tiny hamlets and protected inlets with seals basking on warm rocks.
As always, music will be part of the equation.
19 July - The Isle of Lewis
For the final leg of our journey we'll head to Stornoway, the capital of the Outer Hebrides and the prefect spot for a bustling finale to our trip. 2 nights Stornoway.
Here on the Isle of Lewis, we explore the justly famous Callanish Standing Stones, said to be one of Britain's most complete stone circles, and probably venture out to Gearranan Blackhouse Village, one of the best preserved townships of it sort in the Hebrides.
A visit to the Hebridean Celtic Festival will provide an energetic and fitting finale to our journey through the landscapes and timeless culture of these islands on the edge, and Tir na N-Og (Land of the Young).
Ferry back to reach Ullapool on the mainland about 12.00 and on to Inverness for about 14.00, arriving Stirling 17.00.
A Little Background Reading:
‘Walking & Music in the Outer Hebrides’ Tour: What's Included?
Your holiday includes:
- 10 nights B&B and Guest House accommodation
- 10 breakfasts & 2 evening meals
- Ferries – Oban to Barra, Barra to Eriskay, Berneray to Harris, Stornaway to Ullapool.
- Scottish fiddler and music columnist Ed Pearlman provides relaxed opportunities for travelers interested in playing music and dancing, and background for appreciating our guest musicians
- Music concerts and specially arranged private performances by musical guests
- Tickets to the Hebridean Celtic Festival 2018
- Walking guide for the duration, knowledgeable, friendly & a terrific storyteller.
- Various walks
- All group safety equipment
- Transfers as detailed under the Transfers section
- V.A.T at the current rate of 20%
Ten nights will be spent in B&B's and Guest Houses. Accommodations are limited in Outer Hebrides. While we endeavour to book all rooms as double occupancy with facilities in the rooms, on a rare occasion some rooms may accommodate 3 persons.
Rooms are on a twin share arrangement. If booking as an individual we will match you up with a room mate of the same sex.
During this hike, trip members' luggage will be transported with the group between accommodations. We ask that you limit your overnight bag to a maximum of 15kg (33lbs) in weight. In addition you may bring a small day pack for walks and your musical instrument. Surplus baggage can be stored for you for the duration of the trip if you're staying longer.
What's not included in your tour:
- Any additional meals not specified
- Optional or individual excursions
- Items of personal nature (phone calls, laundry, excess baggage charge, passport fees, etc.)
Our Walking & Music in the Scottish Highlands trip is primarily a cultural walking tour. However, there will be a number of opportunities for trip members to participate in musical sessions, either by playing or listening. Trip members are welcome to bring small, easily transportable musical instruments, including fiddles.
You'll love exploring Scotland with C-N-Do
- We're Scotland's longest established walking tour operator, since 1984
- We use only fully qualified, passionate & highly knowledgeable walking leaders
- Your payments are protected under the rules of the EC Package Travel Regulations
- We're committed to low impact, environmentally sensitive tourism
- We're the first Scottish walking tour operator to achieve a GTBS Gold Award